It happens everywhere and Brazil is no exception – every year, on the 1st of April , a distracted journalist believes in a lie told in honor of April Fool’s Day. When I worked for Gazeta Mercantil, once the main financial daily published in the country, someone produced a fake press release that informed that a certain automotive industry was promoting a recall because a new car model was found out to be extremely dangerous. It would eject the passenger’s seat and lose its four doors as soon as it reached some speed. Everybody laughed in the newsroom – except for a young reporter (in journalism slang, a foca, a seal, always with the nose in the air, trying to flair what is going on) that believed it and produced a note that was published next day.
But the most famous episode involving the lack of good sense of a Brazilian journalist on April Fool’s Day happened in the early 80s. An editor of Veja – till these days the main news weekly – read an article in a German magazine about two scientists working at Hamburg University – dr. McDonald and dr. Wimpy. According to the text, they accomplished a small miracle. They had fused cells of tomato and cattle, enabling the production of fruits that were half vegetable, half animal. Perfect for a spaghetti sauce. It was, of course, a practical joke that gave obvious hints that it was a fake (Hamburg University? McDonald and Wimpy – well-known fast-food restaurants?). Anyway, Veja dedicated a whole page to this prodigious discovery, baptized “boimate“, half boi, half tomate.
One more curiosity about the dangerous flirt of Brazilian journalists with April Fool’s Day: the 1964 coup that started the military dictatorship happened on March 31. The legend says that several journalists neglected their duty of reporting it, believing it was some sort of bad taste joke. Unfortunately it was not.